A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2014
“A wildly ambitious, darkly intellectual and inventive thriller about the intersection of language, technology, and meaning.”
—Kirkus (starred review)
“A remarkable first novel, combining a vividly imagined future with the fondly remembered past to offer a chilling prediction of where our unthinking reliance on technology is leading us. And, as you’d expect, Graedon’s word choice is exquisite.”
—Booklist, starred review
“Spectacular, ambitious debut. . . . Graedon deploys all the hallmarks of a futuristic thriller, but avoids derivative doomsday sci-fi shtick. Instead, her novel is rife with literary allusions and philosophical wormholes that aren’t only decorative but integral to characters’ abilities and limitations in communicating, and it succeeds precisely because it’s as full of humanity as it is of mystery and intellectual prowess.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A worthy project for adult language lovers or dystopian and near-future fans.”—GeekMom
“The Word Exchange is hard to put down and harder not to think about. It is extremely ambitious in its scope and it realizes those ambitions to a large degree.”
—The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo)
"Alena Graedon's spectacular debut is a story for our age of 'accelerated obsolescence.' A genuinely scary and funny mystery about linguistic slippage and disturbance, it's also a moving meditation on our sometimes comic, sometimes desperate struggles to speak, and to listen, and to mean something to one another.
To borrow Graedon's own invention, The Word Exchange is 'Synchronic' -- a gorgeous genre mashup that offers readers the pleasures of noir, science fiction, romance and philosophy. It's an unforgettable joyride across the thin ice of language."
—Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!, and Vampires in the Lemon Grove
“Imaginative, layered, and highly original, The Word Exchange is an engagingly creepy story of technology gone wrong and a clever meditation on the enduring mysteries of language and love.”
—Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles
"Speaking of words—if you love them, too, you have to read The Word Exchange, by Alena Graedon. . . . For someone who works with words and lives under the spectre of the death of print, this debut novel is both frightening and full of hope. . . . A love story, for people, for words. A fabulous, challenging book." —The Sydney Morning Herald
"Wow! This highly addictive future noir is also terrifyingly prescient. Set in a parallel New York filled with language viruses, pneumatic tubes, and heartbreak, Alena Graedon's book is luminous and haunting at every turn. I will never look at words in quite the same way—and neither will you."
—Reif Larsen, author of The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet